Malaysia admits arresting Tamil Tiger leaders

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia has arrested and deported several alleged Sri Lankan Tamil rebels who took refuge here after their leader was killed in the war to crush a decades-old insurgency, officials said Friday.

Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said in a statement that several leaders of the Tamil Tigers were arrested between August 2009 and March this year. The statement gave no further details about the arrests.

Hishammuddin said Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa "very much appreciated" the arrests. Hishammuddin informed him about the arrests at a defense exhbition in Kuala Lumpur this week, the statement said.

Sri Lanka's military defeated the Tamil Tigers last year after 25 years of civil war. Top rebel leader Velupillai Prabhakaran was slain, and remaining leaders went into hiding.

Malaysia has a sizable ethnic Tamil population, many of whom sympathize with the Tamil Tigers who wanted to carve an independent nation for the Tamil minority in the Sinhalese-majority country's north.


Maj. Gen. G.V.D.U.A. Perera, the deputy commissioner at the Sri Lanka High Commission, or embassy, declined to comment on the Malaysian statement.

A Malaysian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on this matter, said all the arrested Tamils have been deported. Among them was a top leader but he could not name him, he said.

"They fled here immediately after Prabhakaran was gunned down last year," he said, adding that Malaysia has "no choice" but to take care of its own security. "We don't want them to make our country their hub for their activities."

Last August, the Tamil Tigers said their new top leader, Selvarasa Pathmanathan, known as KP, was arrested in Kuala Lumpur. But the government refused to confirm the arrest of the group's former chief arms smuggler, who was one of the few to survive a military offensive against the rebels' stronghold in northern Sri Lanka.

Some 8 percent of Malaysia's 28 million people are ethnic Indians. Most of them are ethnic Tamils.

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